Can Macedonia Survive the Latest Internal and Regional Developments?
Vasil Tupurkovski, a former political leader in 1980s Macedonia (when it was still a part of Yugoslavia), has continued to be an important figure in independent Macedonia. He stressed that the future of Macedonia is still not secure and remains threatened by two major factors: the inability to implement political and economic reforms; and ethnic divisions, which could explode when neighboring Kosovo gains independence from Serbia.
The major political parties in Macedonia—the former Communist Social Democrats and the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) among the Slav Macedonians and the two ethnically-based Albanian parties—continue to dominate all aspects of political life in Macedonia to the detriment of the rule of law. As a practical matter, the executive branch totally dominates the legislature and the judiciary, and elections held so far largely have been shams. Economic reform and privatization have been slow and arbitrary. Although Macedonia has an Association Agreement with the EU, it is not yet in force pending ratification by Belgium.
Tupurkovski argued that the neighboring province of Kosovo will eventually gain independence from Serbia and that this could have a lethal effect on the future of Macedonia, unless the process is handled properly. First, Macedonia must recognize that independence for Kosovo is inevitable and must prepare for it. Second, the countries of Southeast Europe, as well as the international community, must recognize that an independent Kosovo could lead to an emerging "Greater Albania," which may result in a dramatic shift in the balance of power in the Balkans, leaving Macedonia's interests neglected.
While Tupurkosvki expects no new wars in the Balkans, he warned that one potential outcome of an independent Kosovo could be the territorial dissolution of Macedonia, resulting from the secession of the Albanian-dominated western parts of Macedonia and their eventual unification with Kosovo and Albania. Skopje is not strong enough politically or economically to prevent this, unless supported by the international community. He stressed that to counter this apocalyptic scenario, it is necessary to develop regional relationships, above all with Greece, which also has reason to dread a Greater Albania. In order to create conditions for international support for the territorial integrity and viability of Macedonia, Tupurkovski offered two concrete suggestions. First, a regional customs union should be created to stimulate economic development and trade. Second, NATO should offer Macedonia a clear and open guarantee of its territorial integrity, which would, in his view, end the threat to Macedonia's borders virtually overnight.